The death of Jan Masaryk still remains unexplained. New theories are also emerging

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Jan Masaryk

Jan Masaryk was one of the most important figures in Czechoslovak politics not only between the two world wars, but also during the Second World War. Of course, the fact that it was about son of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. But there is no doubt that he himself was a very capable diplomat and politician. He was an excellent speaker, spoke several languages ​​and had great charisma.

However, Jan Masaryk also faced problems throughout his life. In 1912, when he was staying in the United States, doctors diagnosed him with so-called hebephrenia, which is a certain form of schizophrenia. Immediately after the First World War, which he experienced as a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army, he began working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the newly formed Czechoslovakia.

Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Jan Masaryk

In 1925 he became ambassador to Great Britain, and in this capacity he also lived through the Munich crisis, during which he tried until the last moment to change the attitude of Great Britain. After Munich, he resigned from his position, then in 1940 he became one foreign minister of the government-in-exile in London.

After the war, he participated in all peace conferences and signed the UN Charter on behalf of Czechoslovakia. At that time, however, he also began to accept the eastern political orientation of Czechoslovakia and he tried to get along with both President Beneš and Klement Gottwald. However, this ceased to be quite possible and Jan Masaryk found himself between the millstones. When the situation escalated and twelve democratic ministers resigned in February 1948, Masaryk did not join them. In effect, he legitimized the establishment of a communist government. He was found dead less than two weeks later.

Death of Jan Masaryk

When trying to explain his death, they always come across facts and motives that support both the theory of murder and the theory of suicide. On the one hand, we know that Masaryk suffered from a mental illness and at the same time had to face enormous psychological pressure and reproaches from those around him and from his own. It is not inconceivable that he would commit suicide in such a situation. However, thanks to his name, he also posed a great risk for the communist regime. The communists knew that Masaryk did not publicly speak out against them. If, for example, he decided to do so in exile, he could pose a great danger to the regime, especially thanks to the name Masaryk.

The death has been investigated several times, even in modern times. We can currently compare three realistic-sounding versions, each supported by other circumstantial evidence. It is not the ambition of this text to describe in detail the way in which these three hypotheses arose, it is rather to create an overview of them.

In the years 2001-2003, the investigation of the forensic biomechanic and criminologist Jiří Straus came to the conclusion that of Jan Masaryk’s fall from the ledge (not from the window) was caused by an external force and was therefore a murder. The conclusion was formulated on the basis of all available information about the position of the body, from the autopsy protocol and the investigation file, as well as from exact biomechanical experiments.

Photo: National Archives (archive.org), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Funeral of Jan Masaryk

In the years 2020-2022, the police then dealt with the results of several years of research by two researchers who used modern tools for biomechanical analysis in the form of sophisticated software intended for a similar type of research. In this case, the conclusion was the opposite: Masaryk fell from the ledge, but no external force acted on him. Of course, this does not rule out the scenario where he was hiding from someone on the ledge and slipped, or when someone knocked him off balance by reaching for him from the window. At the same time, however, according to this expertise, suicide could not be ruled out either. The balance investigation did not lean towards either version. However, there is also a third hypothesis.

Did his colleagues assassinate Masaryk?

The title of this chapter sounds literally tabloid and at first glance meaningless. But if enough evidence points to it, it is the duty of anyone who wants to call himself rational and just to deal with it.

The third hypothesis came up with the well-known researcher a leading Czech expert on the period of the Protectorate, Jaroslav Čvančara. Based on the testimony of criminalist Miloslav Nečásk, with whom Čvančara was personally acquainted, and some other witnesses, he formulated the sequence of events somewhat differently. The basis of his hypothesis was laid by the work developed by the researcher Václava Jandečková.

The said work contains alleged the confession of Masaryk’s associate Jan Bydzovský that he eliminated Masaryk in cooperation with Colonel Fryč and another employee of the Ministry, Arnošt Heidrich. The reason was supposed to be that, in their eyes, Jan Masaryk became a traitor to the ideals of the First Republic when he paved the way for the Communists to come to power. Nečásk’s independent testimony, which Čvančara had from the past, agrees with this.

Of course, even this hypothesis includes unanswered questions. Above all, how is it possible that the then regime did not use the murder for its propaganda. Moreover, according to Bydzovský’s testimony, Masaryk was thrown from the window, not from the ledge, which does not correspond to the position of the body. However, this is where additional evidence comes into play that the body was tampered with.

In short, the death of Jan Masaryk remains unexplained, and the question is whether any further evidence supporting one, the second or the third hypothesis can still be found in the Czech archives. Foreign archives could provide the answers. The USA, Britain or France were asked to go through their archives and provide us with anything that might be of value. But the Moscow archives would probably have the biggest one, unfortunately they are more inaccessible today than ever before.

The article is in Czech

Tags: death Jan Masaryk remains unexplained theories emerging

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